Serving the aerospace, power generation, rail, natural gas, cryogenics, and automotive industries, Kinner Manufacturing of Olivehurst, CA. offers a variety of turbo machining services, including CAD programming, balancing, wire EDM, lathe and 5-Axis mill work. Ray Kinner has spent a lifetime in manufacturing. His father was a machinist, he is a machinist, and now his son Ayrton is adding to the legacy. Kinner Manufacturing is an independent manufacturer / supplier of semi-finished and finished components and assemblies, including fan blades, compressor blades and vanes, BLISKs, IBRs, impellers, diffusers, turbine airfoils, turbine wheels, rotor shafts and hubs, disks, and related components.
We serve a very niche market,” details Ray Kinner, owner and president of Kinner Manufacturing. “We are a 5-axis job shop and take on all the difficult bladed work others turn away. I started the company in 2007, but turbomachinery and gas turbine components have been part of my manufacturing career since I started working for my dad as a kid. He sold his shop in the mid 70’s but I never stopped machining.” Ray spent time in other industries before getting back into manufacturing. In the 90’s Ray was approached by the guy who purchased the shop from his dad. He was offered a job with the deal being that he would sell the company back to Ray. “I worked there from 1998-2007 and came to the conclusion that he wasn’t ever going to sell it to me,” adds Ray. “So, in 2007 I opened Kinner Manufacturing with a 5 axis Haas mill and a Haas lathe. Not the best time to start a company in hindsight, we started off in debt and clawed our way out despite the recession and the upcoming crash. It was horrible for a while. One of my locomotive customers went from ordering 35 impellers monthly down to 5 every six months. For 30 years they consistently had ordered 35 a month, but we made it through by running lean and utilizing every minute of spindle time we had before buying more machines. I ended up doubling down on what I was good at and looked for more impeller and fan jobs. All we run is blades, and blade related items. Challenges we face from customers is that they require the grain to go a certain way, want certain compression, extruded or forged, or double overlap forging. Several requirements can get a little tricky, precluding many of them from being 3D printed.”
Jobs that come through the door at Kinner varies by size, quantity and materials. One day Kinner Manufacturing is filling an order of 1000 3/8” impellers and the next they are running a one-off prototype 30” fan. Each day is a new adventure and it’s not uncommon to start with a 400-pound block of material and deliver a 14-pound finished piece. Average run times are in the 4+ hour range. Many parts even spend 24/7 days on the machines. Everything is custom from the software needed to program the parts to the work holding and balancing. “We have a unique setup that requires very specific set of skills and tools,” explains Ray. “The Concepts NREC software we use for programing is specifically for bladed parts and is expensive. We can’t do without it and niche comes with a cost. There are three different Concepts NREC programming modules and as a job shop, we need, and use all three. There is one for shrouded impellers, another for rolled surface impellers, and an arbitrary surface module too.” Open style impellers have the blades exposed and are considered easier to machine compared to the shrouded counterparts. “A shrouded style impeller requires you to basically tunnel through from each side with limited tool space and get everything to line up,” continues Ray. “Programming can take us several days on a complex shrouded impeller whereas I can do an open style one within an hour.”
Ray knew when he went into business for himself that he didn’t want a standard machine shop competing with everyone else doing traditional 3 axis work. His first machine was a Haas 5 axis mill and every mill since has come with advanced machining features from Selway Machine Tool. The 6000sq.ft. manufacturing center is a five-person operation running a Haas SL40 lathe, a Haas ST15Y live tooling lathe, a pair of Haas UMC 750’s 5 axis machining centers, a Haas VF5, a Hass VF2 with a 5-axis trunnion, four Schenck balancing machines and a new Agie Charmilles 5 axis Cut c350 wire EDM. “We got into balancing and EDM as a way to bring outside processes in house,” tells Ayrton Kinner. “We were losing time sending out parts to other vendors and having more internal control was important to us. Turns out other local shops were having issues finding reliable balancing and EDM sources as well. Both have turned into unexpected and welcomed revenue streams.”
Balancing is a large part of the QC process at Kinner Manufacturing. As you expect all the bladed parts spin. Some spin like crazy and others just lumber along at slower speeds, but all need to run true. “We have shank balancers and spin test machines,” explains Ray. “The basic rule of thumb is if the part is more than .002 out in concentricity then it is not balanceable. We spin test parts at 10% over highest operating speed. Parts typically grow so depending on if it is elastic or plastic movement, we do a finish machine on the parts after the spin test. It isn’t a lot of movement, but enough that we must finish machine it. Word got out we were doing our own balancing and people started calling. We have enough balancing work to have a full-time balancer.”
With no prior EDM experience Ayrton is spearheading the relatively new EDM program. Kinner Manufacturing were sending 40+ keyways out a month for EDM processing. That alone was enough of a bottleneck to warrant the purchase of their Agie Charmilles Cut c350 wire EDM. “We got the EDM as a support machine for our impellers,” details Ayrton. “But we quickly discovered that there isn’t a whole lot of EDM where we are and like with the balancing, we are now taking on EDM only work.” Mike Costello of GF Machine sold the Kinners their machine and got them set up with the necessary training. “I knew nothing before James came in and trained us on the Agie,” continues Ayrton. “James got us cutting right away and showed me how to automate some of the processes. After a week of training, I could program with confidence. Best experience I’ve had with training, and I just love what we can do with that machine.”
You can see the pride right away at Kinner Manufacturing. The kind of pride that comes from a job well done, and the kind of pride that only comes from a family business. Outsourcing products to cheaper regions are the bane of this industry, but at Kinner Manufacturing they are getting some of that back. It brings a big smile to Ray’s face. “We have customers based out of Asia,” touts Ray. “We machine the materials and send them back to China for assembly. Most of the parts we run for the Chinese companies are difficult, tight tolerance, complex, shrouded impellers. Seems like they don’t have the specialization needed to do it themselves and it isn’t worth them trying to do it when they can just buy them from us. It is a big feather in our cap having other countries known for taking our work need to send us parts because it must be precise.”
As a son who was taught the business by his father Ray, is quick to tout Ayrton’s contributions to the company. “I opened the company when Ayrton was only ten years old,” adds Ray. “I had him here with me as forced labor, same as my dad did to/for me. He’s 26 now and been full time for a few years. He takes a lot of weight off my shoulders and is the hardest worker we have. He is doing great stuff with the EDM, and I appreciate him being here.” Ayrton thinks about the parallels between sons working for fathers and how things are completely different, but the same. “My dad’s experience as a kid working for his dad in the shop is crazy to think about,” explains Ayrton. “My dad was mentored by these guys who learned to machine as apprentices in WW2. The industry has changed, but the knowledge my dad shares with me came from these people who knew so much and made amazing parts without the aid of CNC.” “I noticed through the 80s the trend of offshoring and fewer and fewer people in the pipeline to feed this industry,” concludes Ray. “So, for me it is great to see younger people like Ayrton get involved, find their place in US manufacturing, and keep the legacies going for generations to come.”